How many times is someone hurt, you ask for forgiveness, and turn right around and do the same thing again?
I’ve been there too and it totally stinks, but sometimes you can see it coming. You forgive anyway, but you anticipate the process not changing the person. How many times have we been the one not learning from our mistakes when it comes to our relationship with God?
The problem is that we expect our awareness of the issue and God’s forgiveness to create this massive change, but somehow we never consider the thing that has to happen in the middle. There’s work that we have to do.
What if, instead of asking for forgiveness we started asking to be changed by forgiveness?
If instead of just wanting to not be guilty anymore, we wanted to truly be set free from the routes that were causing us to make the same mistake over and over again?
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we have to earn God’s forgiveness or that somehow grace is better when we work for it.
What I’m saying is that within our hearts and our minds there are things that need to be refined. There are mistakes that we make over and over again because we choose not to deal with the root issue. God’s grace continues to pour out upon us and cover those mistakes. Instead of working harder for grace, what I’m suggesting is that we turn our efforts towards the refining process that creates lifelong change.
Asking forgiveness isn’t the first step in this type of change. It usually comes very late in the process.
The first thing that happens is a conflict. Whether it’s anger, grief, physical consequences, illness somehow or some other symptoms. We recognize that there’s a conflict in life between what we’re doing and what we want to be doing or who we want to be. That conflict can create all kinds of emotion and may create ripple effects throughout our life.
Conflict is not a fun place to be.
It takes a ton of energy and it’s just flat out hard work.
The good thing that comes out of conflict is the recognition that there’s more than one choice. We can choose to stay where we are at or we can choose to step into a different space. Conflict usually leads to the second stop, which is grief. It’s easy to grieve for loved ones, lost broken relationships, personal tragedies, or other obvious situations that break our hearts. It can be more difficult to grieve the conflict that I mentioned in the first step.
Some days you wake up realizing you’re not where or who you want to be.
Maybe you don’t have the job that you want. Maybe you’re chasing a relationship with someone who doesn’t value God. Maybe you wake up and realize that the gifts that God has given you haven’t been very high on your radar. All of these things can create grief and it’s important to understand that grief can manifest as anger, tears, strong depression or any other number of emotional responses.
Be really careful because this is the stage of change that we get stuck in sometimes.
This is the stage where we get overwhelmed and feel like it’s not going to get any better. This stage is probably harder than the first because you’ve already identified the conflict and now you can’t ignore it anymore.
Grief is a messy process that you have to walk through.
Don’t minimize its importance in healing and reconciliation. Grief leads to a choice and this is where it can be really hard. You’re faced with the choice of staying where you are or stepping into something new and stepping into something new is often scary. If you’re at this place and totally afraid of stepping into the something new because it seems completely out of your reach, you’re ready for Grace.
You’re ready to be changed by the abundant grace of God who loves you no matter what.
As you become aware that this grace is available to you and has been available the entire time, you start to move into the phase of asking for forgiveness. This is such a powerful faith because you recognize that this is not the kind of I’m sorry that was forced on you when you took somebody’s pencil or when you called somebody a name in elementary school. This is a forgiveness. This is an I’m sorry that comes from the very depths of your soul and it’s a release as you exhale this apology, this please forgive me. With the next breath you can inhale the grace of God pouring out on you.
Once you’ve exhaled the grief and conflict and the desire for forgiveness, you’ve made room for grace in your life.
You’ve made room not only to receive God’s grace but to be an example for others around you. You now have so much grace pouring through your heart and soul that you can’t help but spill it out on other people. You’re like a little kid carrying a cup that’s way too full and it splashes out everywhere you go.
Grace changes you on a deeper level than you can imagine.
It doesn’t just wash away your guilt. It also washes away that conflict in that grief and that tension that the guilt created. That’s not an easy process but the good news is you don’t have to create the grace. You don’t have to earn God’s grace. It’s already there. It’s been chasing you since the very first day even when you couldn’t see it. If you’re struggling to get past the guilt and grief and all of the emotion that is wrapped up in those two places, set aside some time today to quietly sit with God and ask for help. Don’t stress over not having your stuff together.
Show up messy, tearful, and confused. Let God take it from there.